Trial starts Thursday for man accused of murdering his wife in 2016
More than three years after he reported his wife missing in 2016, Thomas Skeek finds himself on trial for her murder.
At 32 years old, Linda Skeek was her family's breadwinner, according to court documents. Thomas, now 37, contacted police to report her missing on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, when she didn't show up for work.
A Jan. 7 alert from the Anchorage Police Department sought help from the public in locating Linda. By Jan. 16, APD announced Linda's disappearance was "suspicious." Four days later, a subsequent alert notified the public of murder and tampering with evidence charges against her husband, Thomas.
The case has remained shrouded in secrecy for years, with police and prosecutors declining to say whether Linda's body was ever recovered.
That will change on Thursday, as attorneys in the case make opening statements to a jury.
Information contained in the arrest warrant hints at what kind of evidence prosecutors will present against Thomas during the trial.
According to the document, Thomas told police officers that he last saw his wife around 2:30 a.m. on New Year's Day 2016, after the two had an argument. He said Linda was headed to a bar on foot, and that she had gone on "one hundred weekend benders" in the previous five years, but always came home on Sunday so she could go to work the next day.
During a Jan. 14 visit at the Skeek home on Morningside Loop, Thomas described a New Year's Eve of "chauffeuring" Linda to several downtown bars, including the Gaslight Lounge, Pandhandle Bar, and Timeout Lounge. He also said he took her to the Great Alaskan Bush Company strip club with their children, ages five and seven, in tow.
"THOMAS would essentially drop his wife off at various bars, while waiting at each location with the children, until she was ready for the next location," the warrant reads.
The husband told officers they arrived home around 1 a.m., then got into an argument before she left the house on foot.
A neighbor later told detectives she drove past Linda walking away from the house at 10:48 p.m. on New Year's Eve, while Thomas stood in the doorway of the home.
"[The neighbor] noted that LINDA was wearing something "red." She stopped and wished LINDA a happy new year. LINDA told her, "I'm going to paint the town red." [The neighbor] drove off and has not heard from LINDA since."
The same day officers spoke to the Skeek's neighbor, they spoke with a convicted felon housed at the Glenwood Center halfway house. The man told officers he met Linda in a bar in November 2015, and the two engaged in a sexual relationship during the months of November and December. He said he contacted her via her work phone which forwarded calls to an unknown number, and he had also called the family's shared cell phone, but would hang up if Thomas answered. The man said he hadn't heard from her since New Year's Eve.
APD confirmed through visitor logs that Linda had met with the man at the halfway house. They also confirmed the man was checked into the Glenwood Center and accounted for during the time of Linda's disappearance, according to the document.
Through a search warrant for Linda's financial records, detectives learned activity on her accounts ended on Dec. 29, then resumed on Jan. 11. Surveillance video showed it was Thomas making purchases, including one for an industrial size container of Lysol at Lowe's.
The family's cell phone, which the document states Thomas gave APD consent to search, showed the email account email@example.com had been deleted, along with all call logs from June 25, 2015 through Jan. 25, 2016.
Police later found presumptive blood evidence in the Skeek home and car when they served a search warrant on Jan. 19, according to the document.
"A search of the residence revealed, among other things, presumptive blood evidence near the entrance to a basement crawlspace, a patent fingerprint in presumptive blood on the vapor barrier within the crawlspace, presumptive blood spatter on a kitchen wall, and evidence of presumptive blood cleanup on a light switch near the back door."
On Jan. 20, APD got a warrant granting the search of Thomas' body. They found a three-inch-long vertical scratch on his back — believed to be consistent with an abrasion from entering a small space — what appeared to be a human bite mark on his right arm, and bruising in his neck, collar bone and hip areas.
In an interview with Linda's father, Doug Sheldon, police learned Sheldon had been living in the home with Thomas since Linda's disappearance. Sheldon told them he saw Thomas enter the crawlspace once, "to look for 'artwork'."
The arrest warrant also paints a picture of violence in the home before Linda went missing.
Linda filed petitions for two domestic violence protective orders in 2015, claiming Thomas assaulted her by grabbing and pushing her, leaving bruises on her upper body.
According to the document, an Office of Children's Services report from November 2015 alleges Linda pointed a loaded handgun at Thomas on two occasions. A child was present for at least one of those instances.
During a status hearing on Wednesday, the parties met before Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michael Wolverton to wrap up loose ends before heading into trial. The conversation focused on housekeeping items and guidelines for how prosecutors will be able to present blood evidence.
Thomas appeared in court handcuffed and wearing prison attire. He sat quietly between his defense attorney, Emily Cooper, and defense investigator Monique Rapuzzi. After the hearing he spoke with Cooper briefly, smiling at times, before being escorted out of the courtroom.
He is expected to wear civilian clothing in the presence of the jury. Once both the prosecution and defense have rested their cases, a 12-person jury will then be tasked with deciding whether Thomas is innocent or guilty of the charges against him: first- and second-degree murder, as well as tampering with physical evidence.
If convicted, he could face life in prison.
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